McRae of pure sunshine for glorious Gloucester

Bourgoin 18 Gloucester 37
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It stretched the obvious nerves of coach Dean Ryan, but with just three minutes to go James Simpson-Daniel made every winger's dream come true. From a break by stand-off Duncan McRae he scored the vital bonus point-earning fourth try for Gloucester to set up a grandstand finale to decide the winner of Heineken Cup Pool Five next weekend.

Once again southern France served up damp conditions, which was not really what Gloucester wanted if they were to run in the four tries they needed to earn a bonus point. All eyes were on Italy during the afternoon, and the news was not good. Not only did Munster beat Treviso, they ran in five more tries. So Gloucester started six points in arrears.

But when Gloucester have their mean and hungry look the opposition should take care. They were clearly ready to rip into anything that stood in their way, but even they must have been surprised when Bourgoin were caught napping at the kick-off.

The ball was turned over, McRae popped a kick over to Marcel Garvey on the right wing and he avoided the clutches of Glenn Davis to score a try with exactly 20 seconds of the game gone.

Henry Paul converted and added two penalties as Gloucester tried to give themselves enough of a cushion to move, despite the driving rain, into adventurous phase. But the Bourjalliens were in a mood to answer all of Gloucester's steam in kind.

What Gloucester did not need was Peter Buxton being sent to the sin-bin just before half-time. Bourgoin rejected a three-point penalty, kicked for the corner and then drove Pascal Pape over for a try.

The script went even more soggy when scrum-half Christophe Laussucq dropped a 44th-minute goal and then, within 60 seconds, Flourain Fritz intercepted a loose McRae pass to scamper unopposed for a try. Benjamin Boyet converted and Bourgoin were ahead. Only briefly. Paul kicked a third penalty and converted a make-amends reply from McRae. Just one more try was needed for that vital point.

The Kingsholm welcome for Treviso next Saturday may be especially hostile, not least because that game will be over before Munster kick off knowing exactly what their target is at home to Bourgoin, whom they narrowly beat in their opening game of the tournament back in early December.

Even the local newspaper admitted that all Bourgoin could hope for was something to cheer for the supporters and the opportunity for Philippe St André, the former coach at Gloucester, to deny his old club an easy path to the quarter-finals. They were much better than that.

Bourgoin: A Forest ; G Esterhuizen, G Davis, F Fritz, J-F Coux ; B Boyet, C Laussucq; O Milloud (capt), B Cabello (J-P Bonrepeaux, 56), P Peyron (J Boulc, 32), M Stolz, P Pape, J Bonnaire, A Petrilli, P Caillet.

Gloucester: J Goodridge ; M Garvey, R Todd, H Paul, J Simpson-Daniel; D McRae, A Gomarsall; T Woodman, C Fortey, P Vickery, A Eustace, A Brown, J Boer (capt), P Buxton, J Paramore.

Referee: D Courtney (Ireland).

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